I think regular readers will acknowledge that I am not normally a fan of modern art or traditional art that has been messed with however every rule has an exception (like chocolate grows on trees and is therefore actually a fruit!) and the art exception is the wonder seasons production of A Midsummers Nights Dream at the Globe. A Midsummer Nights Dream is the first play under the curatorship of Emma Rice and the production was frankly fabulous. It is shakespeare that has been brought on a mystical tour of Bollywood, via the rocky horror show with on point modern cultural references that reflect this fun and young cast production.
The opening with the supporting actors giving the usual switch your phones off and health and safety notices was fun and set the humour for the rest of the play. warning if you find carry on esq risqué humour offensive this really is not the play for you as I over heard in the ladies afterward you might need to explain things to younger audience members if you have small people. There are signs outside the theatre pre warning parents and sensitive persons there is adult content of naughty nature. I am surprised that this was not mentioned online when I booked my tickets.
The story starts in contemporary costume with a mixed ethnicity cast and a disabled member of the cast as positive as this is to see it felt slightly lets be PC if we are going to be a bit naughty, but I am being uber picky.
Early on in the production, Anjana Vasan who is playing Hermia was outstanding and she for me stole the show.
Once we head into the forrest the costumes get slightly more traditional with a twist – they were a feast for the eyes to a degree tudor new romantic with nipple tassels as well as a bit of cross dressing involved all in all very fun and in the spirit of Midsummer. One of my personal favourite items was Pucks trainers glittery and with flashy lights in the heels.
As I mentioned in the opening this is one of the youngest casts I have seen at the Globe and for the story this works very well. So much so may I request the next production of Romeo and Juliet to also have young cast please?
Left Ncuti Gatwa Demetrius Right Ankur Bahl Helenus Image from Globe website
As well as the modern and PC feel of this production there was a homoerotic element when Rice turns Helena into Helenus and at one point there was a male love triangle which older more conservative members of the audience may have been shocked by, but for me I can’t help thinking Shakespeare would have agreed. Firstly the casts of plays in Shakespeare time were all male any way. Secondly homosexuality or certainly the term is a 19th century concept of labelling, during the Tudor time and earlier in history sexuality was more fluid and at different points in your life for both males and females, so for me I don’t think he would object to this change nor do I think his would his players would have minded or battered an eyelid after all they were lovies – stereotype or not, PC or not that is my opinion.
There was a touch too much singing for my taste, what can I say I am not big on musicals but again that is being very picky. It was nice to see the interchanging of characters when actors were portraying more than one character by undertaking costume changes on stage. This I thought was fun and in the feel of the whole experience.
There was a tasteful Bowie tribute in the middle of the play and not out of place within the play. The music that was scattered through out and marked changes in scenes or mood had a cool Pink Floyd feel to it and I really like that as a tool. Best of all there was traditional dancing at the end of the play again! I did feel a bit robbed last year but granted the end of Richard II is not exactly jolly and dancing is not necessarily appropriate. All in all I absolutely loved the play. I will say however I don’t think that the Globe should do this to every play, firstly it would not suit all plays and I do feel that the Globe should maintain the traditional element of Shakespeare but equally productions like this are important, artistic, breathe new life into Shakespeare and even bringing it to new audiences. I loved this so much, I booked Taming of the Shrew this weekend. New blog next week with a write up.